Finding the Right Partners
What we’ve found is that it takes the passion of one person to get the ball rolling and take the lead. This may be you. This may be a community volunteer, a local community leader, a staff member from a nonprofit, or a faculty or staff member from a local college or university. Any of the above, with enough passion, could lead the project; but it takes a team and a community-wide effort to make The Facing Project effective.
Depending on the issue area your community needs to face, this may shape who you choose as partners in the project. There are others, however, who haven’t crossed your mind.
Might there be an engaged faculty member at your local college and university who would jump on this? Is there an area nonprofit that specializes in the issue area to be faced? Is this a priority of the Mayor?
Each brings talents that will fuel the project. Below is a snippet of what this could look like for your community. Even if you represent one of these institutions, we encourage you to still read each as you may think of new ideas or approaches to the project.
Local College or University:
Colleges and universities are hotbeds for talent and energy. Often, faculty and staff are looking for ways to connect their students to the community through service experiences or internships. These institutions bring people power and hands and minds that are eager to experience.
If you’re not affiliated with a college or university, it may seem like a huge web to untangle as you begin weaving your way through who to contact as an entrance point. Some institutions literally have thousands of faculty and hundreds of departments. With The Facing Project, there could be several entry points to consider.
First, go to your local college’s or university’s website. Every campus website has a search feature where you can type in keywords to find people or events. There are three specific things you should be searching for:
First, type in “service and learning.” Many campuses now have Centers (or Offices) for “service and learning.” This is typically the centralized hub on campus whereby all community engagement—including volunteer opportunities, course-based service-learning and community-based action research—must pass. Coordinators or Directors of these Centers are a good first point of contact because they know of the appropriate people on campus who would have an interest in the project, and they have the power to connect you to these individuals. In some instances, Centers may want to partner with you on the project as one of their yearly initiatives. Centers have the clout to make something happen campus-wide.
Second, type in phrases such as “engaged learning,” “community engagement,” “service-learning,” and/or “hands-on learning.” This will pull a list of articles that have been published by campus media on faculty who are engaging their students in community-based projects. This will give you an idea of the types of ways the campus is engaged with the community, and you’ll be able to see the names of faculty members involved in those projects. A quick search for that faculty member within the online campus directory, and you’ll have contact information for a potential partner.
Third, type in “creative writing” or “writing” department. This will give you insight into whether or not the campus has a writing program. If it does, this will be a key partner for your project. If you can’t find any hits on “creative writing” or “writing” department, the English department on campus is another good alternative. Whether you find “writing” or English, both will have faculty and students who may be willing to serve as writers on the project. In addition, they may have connections to local writing circles comprised of writers who often get together to share their work. When we launched the pilot Facing Projects, both entities—campus-based and community-based writers—were significant to the success of serving as and recruiting writers.
Since you are in the process of searching your local college’s or university’s webpage, jot down a list of potential partners and their contact information along with some notes on why they might have an interest in the project.
We’ll discuss other ways colleges and universities could serve as partners under the Funding Options portion of this Toolkit.
Nonprofit agencies are the community. Nonprofits serve in capacities to help those in need and bring awareness to specialized issues. They have the passion for community change, and they know the right people in the community to make things happen.
If you’re not familiar with all of the nonprofit or community agencies within your city, it may seem overwhelming to find the right partners. A good place to start searching for local nonprofit agencies is your area’s United Way (enter your zip code and find yours here – http://www.unitedway.org/).
Just as we suggested with finding the right college or university partners, a web search of your area United Way’s webpage will help you find the agencies affiliated with the organization and the organizations the United Way supports in some manner. Contacting a United Way representative may help locate partner organizations that are in tune with the underlying and ongoing issues that have become part of the community’s fabric, including the issue area your committee has decided to face in your community.
As we’ve found, the United Way is a good convener and can get nonprofits to the table to discuss partnerships for a project. Or they may put you into contact with one partner agency that has connections with various other like-minded agencies.
If the United Way is not an option in your area, don’t lose hope. Even if you have a relationship with only one nonprofit agency, chances are that they are connected with various other agencies. Approach them, discuss the project idea with them, and get their ideas and sense of how the project could work in the community.
In Muncie, for example, we had 17 nonprofit organizations as partners in the project. Because we had access to and built a good rapport with TEAMWork for Quality Living, they connected us to 16 other nonprofits that worked with poverty in some way. These agencies were champions of the project, and they provided us with the citizens who desperately wanted their voices to be heard. Without the relationships we developed with these nonprofit agencies, Facing Poverty would have never happened.
The nonprofit agencies are the community. They know the stories that others are afraid to discuss. They know the people who want to be heard.
Now that you’ve started thinking about nonprofit partners for the project (even if you are a nonprofit agency representative), brainstorm a list of them with bullets on why they’d be a strong partner.
If you have not involved the Mayor’s office in some capacity, we highly urge you to consider doing so. The Mayor’s office may not want to lead the project, but they certainly could serve as secondary support.
The Mayor and his/her staff have the right community connections and can bring the right people to the table, point you in the direction of community resources, and putting their stamp of approval on the project may bring attention to the project.
A Mayor’s office typically has councils or committees working on certain high priority areas within the community. It could be a Council on Homelessness, a Steering Committee to End Domestic Violence, or some other topic area. How might these councils and committees be partners on the project?
In addition, involving the Mayor’s office could bring an issue within the community to the forefront. With Facing Poverty in Muncie, Indiana, the Mayor was highly interested in issues facing residents in poverty, and he made several appearances at Poverty Awareness events. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Mayor included a staffer on the Facing Homelessness Planning Committee, wrote the Foreword for their Facing Homelessness in Fort Wayne book, and made appearances at various Facing Homelessness events; he even gave a proclamation declaring April 18th as Facing Homelessness Day in Fort Wayne. In Atlanta, Georgia, the former Mayor was involved in planning conversations for Facing Sex Trafficking, helped bring on partners to the project, and spoke at a Sex Trafficking conference in the fall of 2013 where Facing Sex Trafficking was showcased. These are just a few examples of way your city’s leader might engage with your project.
Create a list of potential ways your city’s Mayor’s office could be involved in the project. Include key objectives as to why the Mayor’s office might have an interest.